[Featured] People of ASEAN series is a segment where we introduce members of our diverse ASEAN community with their unique stories, perspectives, and most importantly their aspirations.

Q1) Please introduce yourself 🙂

My name is Ida Bagus Mandhara Brasika. My friends call me Nara. I am a proud Balinese, lecturing at the Department of Marine Science, Universitas Udayana, specialising on climate change and ocean-atmosphere interaction. I began my career as a climate change analyst with the National Environment Agency and served for about 4 years.

I graduated with a Bachelor in Meteorology from, arguably, the best science and engineering university in my country, Institut Teknologi Bandung. I obtained a Master of Science in Environmental Technology, with a concentration in Environment Resource Management at Imperial College London, United Kingdom. My master thesis focused on forest fire modelling in Borneo.

With my supervisor, Apostolos. In front of queen tower in 2017 at the iconic landmark of Imperial College London.

Q2) What do you busy yourself with? How do you spend your average day? Share with us how you started on your journey as well as your work!

Which one? Haha!

At times, I feel that I have too many involvements and can’t even differentiate weekends from weekdays. Because I enjoy my work, every day is a working day and a holiday at the same time. Besides lecturing, I am also actively involved with environmental work. I run a foundation called Griya Luhu which focuses on local-based waste management solutions, as well as a company, PT. Negeri Matahari Mandiri, dealing with small-scale solar energy installation. During the COVID pandemic, I embarked on a new initiative to assist farmers in distributing their products directly to consumers. Although busy, I find my days meaningfully and happily spent.

My passion for environmental-related issues was ignited while I was in my undergraduate studies. As I read about climate issues, I felt compelled to do something to revert the damage done to the climate by humans. In fact, Indonesia is a contributor to climate change with the frequent forest fires.

After my Master studies, I realised that in Bali, there were many international organisations and activists championing on waste management issues. However, many of them were vested with their own interests. As a result, waste management remained a problem. I then started an organisation and roped in local youths. We focused on resolving the issues faced in villages and rural area, as we found that they were left out from the radar of the international organisations. Fortunately, our efforts were acknowledged by the newly elected Governor of Bali, who then appointed me to formulate the “Bali Plastic Ban” regulation. This was a major milestone in Indonesia, as Bali was the first province which imposed a ban on single-used plastics.

Bali’s Governor I Wayan Koster with Nara

Q3) Understand that you are a strong advocate of sustainability in Bali. Could you share some of your works and the challenges you face?

My first year on waste management work was used to understand the community. As I executed my project in my own community, I realised that there were many things that I had not known about it.

My main goal was to encourage the behaviour of waste separation within households. The community did not understand 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). We translated that into the local culture and language so that the people could understand. Noticing that many of them were not highly educated and held strong traditional beliefs, I had to approach the topic of waste management in a way that reflected their values, such as Tri Hita Karana, Pangkung Teba, and others.

I always remember the moment when I gained their trust. This was not easy as many had visited the village and tried to sell solutions that did not work. It was natural for them to be skeptical of my team. Initially, they were not willing to separate their own waste, but prefer to bring unseparated waste to the waste service centre. To gain their trust, I separated their waste in front of them for almost a month. They felt ashamed and gradually started to separate their own waste. We are like a family now.

Q4) What are your perspectives on the regional effort in combating the climate change problem? How is Bali or Indonesia contributing to this aspect?

There are many ways to tackle climate change. When you can’t move the world or your nation to take serious action climate change, start small, be the example and make others follow you.

Taking time off to conquer the Peak of Batur Mountain, Bali 1717 meter above sea level

The Bali Plastic Ban regulation was one such example. Bali is a small island. Bali’s population is only 2% of Indonesia’s overall population. Balinese were ethnic and religious minorities. Bali is fortunate to be able to capture international attention on the island for social/environmental issues. Although the idea to ban single-used plastics were discussed for many years in Indonesia, there was no regulatory movements. The Bali Plastic Ban regulation sparked the trend for many cities, including Jakarta, to follow suit. If this momentum continues, I believe we could arrive at a national ban on single-use plastics very soon. The butterfly effect would then reverberate across ASEAN and the world.

Q5) Share with us 3 fun facts about Bali’s sustainability movements

Fun, Original, Fast-growing!

Although waste management is a serious issue, we always keep it fun. Cleaning Bali’s beaches is a form of exercise and leisure activity for us. Waste separation at the households generate revenue for them and bonds the community. Reducing single-used plastics is a happy and encouraging trend. Local wisdom is our pride. We are always enhancing our current waste management system. Many people wanted to replicate our system to get fame and money. However, they will never understand the real value of resolving waste management issues.

Nara after finishing his routine work at the waste bank

Right now, there are more than 30 organisations in Bali dealing with waste issues. They are growing fast and waste management has become a lifestyle in Bali.

Q6) What do you aspire for the future of Southeast Asia?

I aspire Southeast Asia to be the first region to significantly reduce single-used plastics!

Q7) What keeps you going?

This question is the hardest one. I don’t know exactly what made me keep going. What I do know, is that I am happy to do this and I am happy to add value to the world.

Since I started my environmental work, I felt like I had gained many new family members. Each time I visit the villages, villagers would warmly welcome me. They share their food, their crop, and many things. They make me feel accepted. I am happy to be connected to people and to the world.

Reopening Digital Waste Bank on Cagaan Kaja Village.
A digital platform created by Nara’s team to bridge waste management in exchange for food and small payout.

Q8) What are you up to lately?

My organisation, Griya Luhu, had recently launched a mobile app on waste management in villages and achieved a breakthrough as we integrate technology and local values in our waste management. We are still piloting the app in several villages.

My waste separation facility is also operational and will facilitate the waste collection transportation system for the villages.

Fb: Ib Mandhara Brasika / www.facebook.com/mandhara

E-mail: Mandharabrasika@gmail.com

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